Driving DE&I through skills-based hiring

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4 mins, 12 secs read time

You’ve probably heard about the glass ceiling – that invisible but very real barrier that prevents women from making it to the top level of leadership in the workforce. But what about the paper ceiling? This refers to the difficulty workers without bachelor’s degrees face when it comes to employment. According to tearthepaperceiling.org, “Millions of workers with in-demand skills and experience [are] overlooked for higher-wage jobs because they don’t have a bachelor’s degree.” More than 60% of Black, 55% of Hispanic, 66% of rural and 61% of veteran workers are considered STARs, or workers Skilled Through Alternative Routes.

The paper ceiling – and how to dismantle it by hiring STARs – was the topic of a SXSW session hosted by Bridgette Gray, Chief Customer Officer at Opportunity@Work. The panel included Aneesh Raman, VP & Head of the Opportunity Project at LinkedIn, Jill Kramer, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Accenture and Jonathan Adashek, Chief Communications Officer & Senior VP, Marketing & Communications at IBM. Explore some of the highlights from their conversation below.

Understanding the shift to skills-based hiring

The shift to skills-based hiring has been gaining traction recently. In late 2022, McKinsey reported that, “Through a skills-based approach, companies can boost the number and quality of applicants who apply to open positions and can assist workers to find more opportunities to advance internally, which can help employers improve retention. It also helps communities by creating more and better job opportunities for a broader, diverse pool of workers.”

In early 2023, Gartner predicted that pursuit of nontraditional candidates to expand talent pipelines would be one of the work trends of the year. On the SXSW panel, Aneesh said that half of the recruiters on LinkedIn are explicitly using skills when recruiting on the platform.

Talent is a force for change. You will either harness that force or you will miss out. You have to be a talent creator. You have to unlock it to access it.
–Jill Kramer, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Accenture

How skills-based hiring can help you achieve DE&I goals

What’s the connection between skills-based hiring and DE&I? Focusing on skills rather than degrees allows you to consider a much broader range of candidates who bring different experiences and perspectives to the table. Jonathan said, “It's important to create a shared awareness for the paper ceiling. More than 60 percent of people over 25 don't have a college degree. These people think it's too costly or they won't get work. But great skills can be found anywhere.” Aneesh added that there’s a clear connection between focusing on skills and creating equitable job opportunities: “If you bring a skills-based filter to your recruiting, you broaden your talent pool by 20 times. Your talent pool for women goes up 60 percent. It equalizes access to the labor market.”

If you bring a skills-based filter to your recruiting, you broaden your talent pool by 20x.
–Aneesh Raman, VP & Head of the Opportunity Project at LinkedI

Tips for getting started with skills-based hiring

Even if you’re on board with the idea of skills-based hiring, it can be hard to know how to get started. Here are a few practical tips from the panelists.

Get the C-suite involved

“It's not just a charitable thing; it's a business imperative,” said Bridgette. Aneesh agreed: “Move it from a CHRO conversation to a CEO conversation. It's about building a skills-first org. Show me your talent strategy and I'll tell you your business strategy.”

And don’t stop there – call in others from across your company

“If you treat HR like a back office, it doesn’t work,” said Jill. Aneesh also emphasized the importance of getting other people from throughout your company involved – especially hiring managers since this involves a mindset shift in the way they approach hiring. “Our key influencers are the hiring managers. They need to learn this skill and they're going to find better talent,” he said.

Use data to tell success stories

You don’t have to transform your entire approach to hiring all at once. Jill recommends creating a pilot for a smaller team or department. You can take what you learn from that experiment to get more hiring managers on board. “If you want to tear the paper ceiling, use data to tell the story of success,” she said.

Don’t forget about internal mobility

Keep in mind that skills-based hiring isn’t just about making that initial hire, but creating pathways for growth, too. Jonathan said, “Mobility for STARs is important. We look at STARs the same as everyone else. It's about how people show up once they're there. I don't care what their background is.”

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Micah Gebreyes

Micah Gebreyes

is a Senior Manager of Content Marketing at Greenhouse where she develops and leads the content strategy for Greenhouse blogs, social media and thought leadership newsletter, Modern Recruiter. When she's not working to bring the brand story to life, she enjoys spending time with her Pomeranian, Cashew. Keep the conversation growing with Micah on LinkedIn or through the Greenhouse LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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